On July 25th, 1928, Alex Toth was born in New York City. Through several decades' worth of comics, and his design work on Hanna-Barbera's classic animation lineup, Toth established a legacy as one of the best and most influential comics artists of all time. And most comics readers don't even know that.
On this date in 2004, Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris's Ex Machina #1 debuted, beginning a fifty-issue run that is widely considered one of the best comics of the 2000s. More specifically than that, though, it's the most real-world relevant superhero comic... ever?
Scott McCloud was born on this day in 1960, as Scott McLeod. (Like all great self-made iconoclasts, he changed his name.) Cartoonist, scholar, orator, inventor, and champion, Scott McCloud is one of the most important creators of his era, and perhaps the Ben Franklin of comics.
The things about The Sandman that I recall the most fondly aren't what most others think of. In my experience, an overwhelming percentage of readers are quick to talk about the characters, or the strength of writer Neil Gaiman's voice. I definitely can't argue against either of those, but what I really appreciated about The Sandman was Gaiman and his artists' ingeniously subtle tricks with symbolism and structure. The big points were always echoed in some very clever ways that never disrupted the natural flow of the story to point out how ornate the plot actually was.
Gaiman and J.H. Williams III have managed to condense pretty much all the major themes of the seventy-five issue run of The Sandman into The Sandman: Overture.
Perhaps because he wanted to reveal more of the back story, perhaps because of Frank Quitely's legendary turnaround times, Mark Millar has teamed with artist Wilfredo Torres for Jupiter's Circle, a ten-issue companion series to Jupiter's Legacy. Does it actually provide something new, or is it more of the same? (I genuinely don't know, I'm writing this part before I actually read it.) One thing's for certain: it's one-hundred percent going to be finished before Jupiter's Legacy is.
With Casanova: Acedia now underway, and a new collected edition of Casanova: Avaritia available, now is the perfect time to discuss one my favorite sub-sections of comics: semi-autobiographical genre books. Yeah, it's a real thing.
When you parse out the world of comics, there are these great big bins that most everything gets thrown into: mainstream and alternative/independent. The overwhelming majority of mainstream books are in the superhero genre, while autobiography is easily the most prevalent type of comic among the independents. There's plenty of great work in those two larger categories, but things get really fascinating to me when they intersect.
Hit: 1955 was one of the best crime comics of 2013, a whiskey-soaked LA noir about a detective on a police hit squad that took on the mob. In their follow-up, Hit: 1957, the team of Bryce Carlson and Vanesa Del Rey dive back into the darkness for more.
Over the last several years, Vertigo has revived several forgotten anthology titles with good results: Strange Adventures, Mystery in Space, The Witching Hour and Time Warp. With Strange Sports Stories, Vertigo once again dips into comics history, drafting a lineup of heavy hitters and utility players for odd tales of sports and science fiction coming together in unexpected ways.
In Red One, the Soviet Union sends a bombshell Russian soldier to infiltrate American society under the guise of a "real-life superhero." Her stated mission is to dissuade Cold War Americans from looking for Commies in every corner, but her true calling may be to help them take ownership of their sexuality.
With the hook it has, Red One could go in so many different directions: paranoid spy thriller, over-the-top action comic, political drama. Instead, the new book by Xavier Dorison, Terry Dodson, and Rachel Dodson takes a route you never would have expected: a satirical look at America's obsession with sex, religion, heroes, and fame.
The imaginary friend isn't a super-prevalent trope in comics, but it's been deconstructed enough in some very good comics that it's hard to believe that something shockingly new can be done with it. Morrison, Gaiman, and Moore are all fans of the device; Jamie McKelvie's Suburban Glamour, God's appearances in Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends, and more.
Despite the territory that's already been covered, Shaun Simon and Tyler Jenkins have hit a hidden deposit in Neverboy, in which an unyoked imaginary friend takes drugs to stay in the real world. It's a clever idea, and it's definitely never been done before, but where Neverboy really strikes gold is when the drugs run out.